Scotland is the most economically distressed county in North Carolina. That’s not exactly breaking news.
We wholeheartedly agree with sentiments expressed by State Senator Tom McInnes, who recently stated: “The way it is right now, we can’t make anybody locate a plant in Scotland County if they don’t want to come here. We’ve got to give them a reason to come here. We’re going to have to work in a different way than we’ve been working…”
Despite longstanding and ongoing attempts by County gurus to bring in new industry, the fact is Scotland County will never again be a manufacturing magnet. Mexico’s new and highly automated state of the art plants pay wages of $2 per hour and No benefits. Even Chinese wages are higher, causing factories there to now relocate to cheaper venues like Vietnam in order to compete. Despite often repeated prognostications, even ‘The Donald’ won’t be able to reverse this trend.
As Senator McInnis continued: “… we’re going to have to work together… to offer 21st century curricula for the jobs that we have available and not the jobs that we wish we had.”
America was founded upon the concept of a largely self regulating and self righting Free Market Economy. This was by no means perfect, but a great, prosperous and self governing republic was built upon its foundation. We became ‘The Shining Light on the Hill’ that others looked up to and sought to emulate. Unfortunately, that was a long time ago.
There can be no doubt that Scotland County was destined to experience difficult times when mills and manufacturing began fleeing, first to China and then Mexico, but according to Free Market dogma, things would have eventually righted themselves had market forces been allowed to play out.
That didn’t happen, and today, decades later, despite massive state and federal grant programs and tax incentives being thrown at the problem, Scotland County remains mired in a Deep Depression. Worse yet, subtract state and federal welfare programs, along with generous USDA subsidies, supports, loans and grants, and Scotland County’s economy would be completely torched.
The reasons the Revival never took hold here are easily identified, straight forward, and well understood… not complicated at all. The question is: Are we going do anything about it or do we intend to mire in this pig slop until there is absolutely nothing left?
Before we move on, let us share a brief but telling story. After purchasing a former manufacturing plant, we made an appointment to talk with Scotland County’s Director of Economic Development. He proved to be friendly, intelligent, well educated, articulate and courteous. He was also highly compensated with a salary of $80k per year, plus a generous benefit package.
The discussion began with our vision of how we could assist the County transition from an obsolete manufacturing based economic model to a forward looking high tech model, but nevertheless, one that could, with little training, take advantage of the County’s existing, but largely unskilled human resource demographic.
The Director listened politely, but soon enough broke in, stating with crystalline clarity, that unless we were prepared to bring at least 700 jobs to the County (for starters), it wasn’t worth his time to continue talking with us. We expressed puzzlement as to that magic 700 job number, wherein he replied that the County was putting final touches on a project that would bring a large Japanese clutch manufacturing operation to the County that would employ 700.
We weren’t quite ready to take no for an answer and inquired who was next on the County ladder that we could talk with. The County Manager was ‘the man’, but was not presently available. We left our contact information and were assured he would contact us. We never heard back.
End of Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2
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